One CEO’s Take on VMworld 2019: An Industry Giant Making Moves in an Evolving Landscape


In this article, Brian Kelly, CEO of CloudBolt, shares his takeaways from VMworld 2019, and why the epicenter of the evolution from virtualization to the cloud might be found elsewhere.

As CEO of a hybrid cloud management platform company and industry enthusiast, I have attended VMworld annually for the past seven years. And over the years I have seen the steady evolution of virtualization toward cloud technologies. That evolution is ongoing, but the conference this year gave me the impression that, in many regards, the epicenter of that evolution might be found elsewhere. To flesh out this impression, here are my main takeaways from VMworld 2019.

VMC on AWS, and the shift to hybrid cloud

One of the big stories coming out of this year’s event was the focus on the “VMware Cloud (VMC) on AWS” partnership and joint service. This service was announced in 2017, and essentially, enterprises with on-prem legacy investments in VMware who want to modernize their stack will be able to migrate these workloads to the AWS public cloud. As a result, they can benefit from this new hybrid environment delivered as an on-demand service.

This sounds great for any enterprise finally ready to take the plunge into the public cloud while maintaining continuity with its existing infrastructure. But for IT leaders looking to stay on (or finally get on) the cutting edge, I wonder if moving to the cloud in this way may end up feeling a bit like running the old stuff in a new place. Frankly, if you are going to go all-in on AWS, why would you take a route that will effectively limit your ability to take full advantage of the platform’s capabilities? In my view, going hybrid cloud is different. It’s about a truly integrated strategy that combines on-premise and cloud-native–not retrofitting one on top of the other–and seamlessly orchestrating workloads across those environments. Food for thought.

Project Pacific, Tanzu, and the embrace of Kubernetes

With the Tanzu service portfolio announcement, and the pending acquisition of Pivotal, VMware highlighted their commitment to supporting the new cloud-native world. One of the offerings in the Tanzu portfolio previewed at the event was Project Pacific, which focuses on shifting VMware vSphere to a Kubernetes native platform.

Personally, I think VMware is playing a bit of catch-up by entering a crowded and competitive space of players already orchestrating Kubernetes workflows. Nevertheless, it’s great to see an embrace of Kubernetes and containerization, and a continued testament to broader trend of microservices, whether that’s with the launch of Google Anthos platform last year, or support for Kubernetes which we’ve had at CloudBolt for several years.

Acquisitions, innovations, and the rise of the developers

VMware has also done a lot to expand and supplement their product portfolio with a flurry of acquisitions (nine this year including, as mentioned, Pivotal, as well as Carbon Black and Veriflow). The acquired targets are undeniably innovative, but this strategy, not uncommon for companies the size of VMware, means little of the big announcements I heard involved technologies born and bred in-house.

However, one of the things I did hear that intersects with us, was the launch of vRealize Automation 8.0, VMware’s next-generation cloud management platform. What I found interesting was a pivot from VMware’s traditional focus on the infrastructure, systems, and data center teams, and stronger embrace of the needs of developers. Stronger support for public cloud, resource blueprints, and microservices and containers were all parts of this release.

From my standpoint, it’s something that I’m excited to see. At its core, it’s validation on the need to continue balancing the agility developers seek with the control that IT wants. And for us, this is something that we’ve focused on at CloudBolt for years–orchestrating the controlled delivery of IT resources (i.e., VMs, workloads, XaaS) to developers across any cloud. And with multi-cloud, microservices, and infrastructure-as-code (IaC) eating enterprises, achieving this balance has never been more important.

A valuable experience

I was glad that the CloudBolt team and I were there. We attended some great sessions with VMware subject matter experts and we interacted with a lot of customers and potential customers. What’s more, there was real excitement among the people we spoke with about what we’re doing. The growth of hybrid cloud, adoption of Kubernetes, and embrace of a developer’s mindset–these are all trends that make me excited to be part of a significant industry transformation that we all continue to play in.